Thursday, January 10, 2008

Memphis at Sacramento - 1.10.08

Memphis found out that the Lakers are more than just Kobe Tuesday night as the LA big men harassed the interior and Derek Fisher shredded the nets for 26 pts on 5-5 shooting from the arc (all with his mom watching from the stands). Now the Grizzlies take the road against suddenly hot Sacramento to start a three game road trip that ends Sunday with the Lakers again. Mike Conley got a lot of attention for his first three starts but he looked like a 20 yr old rookie against Fisher who forced Conley into a 5-15 shooting night by playing intelligent defense as well. The 'MG's' (Miller, Gasol and Gay) struggled most of the night despite Gasol's double-double (18 & 12), Miller's 19 pts, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Rudy struggled most of the night and only Gasol played well in the first half as the Lakers pulled away. early foul trouble for Darko and Rudy didn't help things either.

Sacramento should have a record no better than that of Memphis; with the team's top three players out, it never appears a remotely fair fight before the tip. Somehow, some way, this team fights. The Tuesday win over Orlando was a perfect example: There is no defender in Sacramento save injured Ron Artest who can stop Rashard Lewis, but for the first half of the game quick defensive rotations and good jump outs prevented Shard from going off. He ended up getting his because, as I said, no one on this team can stop him. It could be the same deal with Rudy Gay or Pau Gasol: No one can stop them, but the Kings on the court will try their best to do so. Some nights, it's enough. On offense, look for the Kings to be really active. The team flew and flung the ball around against Orlando, working hard to get Dwight Howard out of position. It worked for three quarters, until turnovers caught up with Sacramento. They will turn the ball over plenty, with Mikki Moore's lack of opposable thumbs and John Salmons' traveling the typical culprits. Salmons, Beno Udrih, Francisco Garcia and Quincy Douby can and will shoot from deep; as Memphis fans surely recall, Brad Miller can step out, too. Moore has been relegated to deep pick-and-roll and mop-up duty, but he's susceptible to mini-runs of energetic ecstacy. If he gets a putback dunk and follows with a scream, look out.

These Two Teams are Similar Stats:
-- The Griz are 2-2 in their last 4 games, but lost 5 in a row before that.
-- The Kings are 2-2 in their last 4 games, but lost 4 in a row before that.
-- The Griz are outscored by an average of 4.2 points per game, the Kings by 3.0.
-- Both teams allow a higher FG% than they shoot themselves.
-- Both teams have 5 conference wins and 4 road wins.

Rudy's Below-the-Radar Steal Streak: Rudy Gay has now been credited with at least 1 steal in each of his last 19 games.

Zack's Keys

-- Successful plays when Pau is double teamed. The Kings do not have the personnel to cover Pau one-on-one. I expect they will double Pau most of the game.
-- It is better to take than to give. Chris Herrington has talked lately of turnover differential being a primary cause for the poor record. The Grizzlies are 4th to last in the league in turnovers per game and allow the opponents the fewest turnovers per game. Another manifestation of the same problem is the Griz being last in steals per game and while also giving up the most steals per game. Against a Kings team without Artest, the Grizzlies have a great opportunity to commit below average number of turnovers.
-- More communication on defense. If I had to put my finger on one aspect that is hurting our defense the most (beside lack of quality NBA defenders) it would be the lack of defensive communication. The Kings are a terrible team when it comes to assisted field goals, which may be a good sign for our defensive fortunes. Though I'd still like to see more communication on such things as screens and backdoor cuts.

One thing to remember. The Memphis Grizzlies have never won in Sacramento and the franchise hasn't won since 1998. The Grizzlies already won for the first time ever in Indiana this year. Now would be a good time to end the streak in Sacramento.


Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Beno Udrih
When San Antonio traded Udrih it was because he never found his role as a back up in San Antonio. Well he has found one as a starter in Sacramento. He seems more confident in running the offense and shooting the ball of late and has filled in more than adequately for Bibby. The 6-3 Slovenian guard has been averaging almost 14 ppg and nearly 5 assists this season. While not exactly all-star numbers they are definitely solid. Conley is still learning the ropes pretty much. Outstanding speed and court awareness has given Conley the starting role but there is still a lot to learn for the 20 yr old from Ohio St. Expect Udrih to play off Conley due to his lack of foot speed daring Mike to shoot.
Advantage: Sacramento

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs John Salmons

Salmons has been a pleasant surprise filling in for the injured Kevin Martin. However Memphis may be catching a break here as Salmon's numbers are much better on the road than at home. Salmons is as effective scoring as Mike Miller hitting 51% of his FG attempts and a stupid 47% from the arc as a starter. Unlike Miller Salmons also has very quick hands resulting in 1.8 spg. Miller has been stepping forward more and more of late as his assists have really begun to move up. While only 3rd in scoring on the team Miller is hitting the shots he takes and moving the ball very well. Miller's production does decline on the road however and Sacramento is a tough place to play.
Advantage: Sacramento

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Francisco Garcia

Rudy Gay has shown the ability to start hot and stay hot as many players do. Of late he shown the mental toughness to start cold and shoot his way out of it. That is rare for NBA players. Rudy has been the consistent go to guy and at times he forces shots he shouldn't. Francisco Garcia has started to play better since moving into the starting role. In the last 5 games (all starts) Garcia is averaging 17.2 ppg on 46% shooting and 40% from the arc. He has grabbed 5.8 rebounds and averages 1.2 apg, 1.0 spg and 0.6 bpg. Not all star numbers but solid for the 3rd yr pro who had done little to justify his draft spot previously.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Mikki Moore

Mikki Moore is a 7 ft journeyman who understands that his best approach is to be intimidating because pure talent alone won't get him very far. He can punish teams that ignore him with thunder dunks and if you let him he will try and get into your head but there isn't a lot of true ability behind the facade. His real strength is getting to offensive rebounds and keeping possessions alive. Gasol has plenty of ability but he has a reputation of being intimidated easily and for giving up offensive rebounds but Gasol has had a lot of success against Moore in the past too. A strange paradox. Since Gasol called out the team in the press expect a big effort on his part in this game.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Brad Miller

Brad Miller continues to show you don't have to be a high draft pick to perform well in the NBA. The former undrafted Boilermaker is one of the very few players to be an all-star from both conferences. Miller will be 32 this season and the pounding seems to be taking its toll but he is still capable of hitting double-doubles most nights and there isn't a more physical and intelligent big in the game. Darko continues to mature in the starting role and seems to have put most of the sprained thumb problems behind him. He still has trouble catching some passes but he understands his role in the defense and will exploit any team trying to cheat two bigs over on Gasol. The problem has been his propensity to start the game in foul trouble and Miller is sure to attack him early to continue that trend. How long Darko plays will determine who will win the match up.
Advantage: Sacramento

Benches: Memphis vs Sacramento

Here is where things get dicey for both teams. With SAR, KMart, Bibby and Artest on the injured list Sacramento is already reaching deep into their bench for starters but Quincy Douby, Dahntay Jones, Kenny Thomas and rookie Spencer Hawes are all capable of having decent games or at least good stretches in games. However none of them can be counted on to provide a punch off the bench. Memphis's bench is just as erratic although they can't use the injury excuse. Navarro and Lowry are rookies and playing like ones looking more tired and less confident every game. Stro is still Stro which means sporadic contribution at best. Hakim Warrick should see some action in this game as the Kings have little offensively off the bench to keep Warrick seated. Don't be surprised to see Damon Stoudamire suit up as well. Memphis may want his long distance threat out there.
Advantage: Memphis

Relevant blogs/websites:
Sactown Royalty
Special thanks to Tom Ziller for his insights into the Sacramento team. It was most appreciated.


zack said...

i have no idea how to predict this game....

Griz 111
Kings 110

memphis wins on a last second shot after the time keeper starts the clock a little slow to our benefit...

fred savage said...

please god. its the kings. everyone's hurt. please.

griz 108
kings 99

Anonymous said...

This game is very tight now with the Grizz trying their hardest to keep the distance between themselves and the Kings.